Greece bids farewell to challenging 2022
Greece bids farewell to 2022 while grappling with significant sociopolitical and diplomatic issues. The European nation, which has severe problems in its relations with Turkey, continued to encounter new obstacles in its economic and political life in 2022.
The conservative Kyriakos Mitsotakis government was tasked with handling the extraordinary worsening of Greek-Turkish relations during the year. The government simultaneously became entangled in scandals and cases involving the nation's political and social life. At the end of 2022, Greece played a prominent role in a global scandal involving the EU, non-EU countries, and foreign intelligence services.
The year of economic and democratic erosion
New issues have arisen in Greece as a result of the conflict in Ukraine and the uncertainties surrounding global diplomatic, economic, and energy relations by the end of 2022. The inflation problem now confronts the nation, which has been working to overcome the effects of the severe economic crisis of the previous ten years. With many households finding it difficult to satisfy their necessities due to the recent spike in inflation, the government has been forced to mobilize emergency funding to help its residents.
The most recent reports indicate that Greece's annual inflation rate decreased from 9.1 percent in October to 8.5 percent in November. This is true even though prices continued to rise in every category of goods and services during the month, except for telephone services.
More specifically, price increases were seen in the following items: bread/cereals (18.7%), meat (16.7%), fish (1.9%), dairy/eggs (25.3%), oils/fat (20.4%), fruit (3.7%), vegetables (12.6%), sugar/chocolate/sweets (8.6%), other food (12.9%), coffee/tea (11.9%), mineral water/beverage (8.9%), alcohol (7.1%), clothing/footwear (10.9%), house rent (2.6%), (10.2 percent).
In November 2021, the inflation rate was 4.8 percent. On a monthly basis, the consumer price index remained constant in November. The harmonized inflation rate for Greece increased from 4.0 percent in November 2021 to 8.8 percent in November. The harmonized rate decreased by 0.3% in November 2022 compared to October 2022 on a monthly basis.
The New Democracy government enlisted subsidies for the basic needs of Greek households in 2022 to respond to the challenge of inflation. Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek prime minister, recently proposed a 10% subsidy for all food purchases made by households to lessen the impact of inflation. A windfall tax on its two oil refineries will be used to earn the projected 650 million euros ($690.82 million) needed for the subsidies.
Mitsotakis expects that the subsidy will appeal to voters increasingly concerned about their rising cost of living as Greece approaches the home stretch leading up to the general elections scheduled to be held by June 2023. Because supplements don't address the issue of inflation, opposition representatives criticize the concept.
Greece's challenges in 2022 were not just economic, as Gerçek News has already warned her readers. Prime Minister Mitsotakis and his administration were linked to the surveillance controversy throughout the year. The Greek opposition press has reported that Mr. Mitsotakis and his accomplices have been accused of illegally intercepting the communications between political opponents and representatives of the Greek government and army. The interceptions were made using foreign software Greece purchased through Cyprus and other international entities.
At the end of 2022, Greece had to deal with the wiretapping scandal and the significant controversy involving the alleged bribery of European officials by the governments of Morocco and Qatar. The scandal's central figure, Greek politician Eva Kaili, has been recently detained in Belgium.
Alarming signals from the Greek society
Violence against women, children, and Roma was another negative pattern in 2022 in Greece. As the readers of the Gercek News were informed earlier, in recent years, the phenomena of violence against women have shown an alarming increase in all their manifestations. This trend continued during 2022.
The nightmare of a group raping an underage girl also occurred in Greece in 2022. A child was "promoted" to clients in the center of the Greek capital in a case involving businesses and low-level politicians. The Hellenic Police (ELAS) has detained people as part of its investigations.
A fresh scandal involving a non-governmental group that shelters and helps vulnerable children followed the underage girl's rape case. According to charges that make headlines in the Greek press, the "Ark of the World" is allegedly implicated in the abuse of minors. A mother is charged with killing her children in a different, unrelated instance.
In Greece, 2022 ends with the Roma community revolting against state violence. Violent incidents occurred on Greek city streets due to the child's death. A 16-year-old community member was recently brutally slain by police.
The explosive mix of rape, abuse, and state violence in 2022 in Greece was accompanied by the inadequacy of the state apparatus in dealing with serious problems triggered by climate change and the refugee issue. The natural disasters began with the unprecedented snow in Attica and the hundreds trapped on the capital city's Attiki Odos. The year continued with massive fires and floods. This year, with the prolonged drought and heatwave, the results for the forest areas were catastrophic.
Migrants and refugees lived out their Odyssey in the Aegean as natural disasters continued. In 2022, new groups made several attempts to traverse the Aegean Sea and arrive on the European coast. Parents and kids lost their lives due to some of these attempts. There have been several concerns and allegations regarding how inhumanely the Greek government has treated refugees.
Escalation of tension in the Aegean, the war in Ukraine
2022 will become one of the most challenging years in the history of Greek-Turkish relations. The Erdoğan-Mitsotakis meeting in Istanbul marked the start of the year in Greek-Turkish ties, but the cordial atmosphere of understanding swiftly deteriorated. Rafale fighters added to Greece's air force enraged Ankara, gradually increasing its verbal aggression. After Kyriakos Mitsotakis' historic speech to the US Congress, the event reached its zenith. The threat that the Turks would invade Greece was first made public by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan this year and repeated by Ankara frequently after that. At a gathering of the political community in Europe in October, Mitsotakis and Erdoğan verbally exchanged blows, with the Greek prime minister urging his Turkish counterpart to halt the provocations.
Alarming messages from Cyprus began to arrive as the Aegean's tension increased. The Cyprus issue remained unresolved in 2022 while the parties traded insults. The year ends with the Turkish Cypriot side warning of a "reaction" to unilateral activities in the energy sector and the Greek Cypriot side announcing the exploration of new natural gas reserves off the coast of Cyprus.
At the same time, the beginning and gradual intensification of the war in Ukraine left Athens in a difficult position on the West-Russia axis. Ukrainians living in Greece and Cyprus at the start of the conflict returned home to fight. At the same time, Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, spoke before the parliaments of Cyprus and Greece, pleading for aid in the conflict with his nation. However, the fact that he did not mention the Turkish invasion of Cyprus left a wrong impression. In Greece, a member of the Azov battalion's address in parliament generated a stir. During the dangerous evacuation of the Greek consulate in Mariupol, the Greek Foreign Minister traveled to Ukraine. The Russian side was incensed by Greece's contribution of military assistance to Ukraine. The protracted conflict in Ukraine caused significant instability in Greek-Russian relations.
It is important to note that Greece and Iran recently had issues with each other's vessels being impounded in their territorial waters. Greece also kept up and stepped up its communication with Saudi Arabia and Israel.
*Dr Nikolaos Stelgias was born in Istanbul. He is an independent researcher, writer, historian and journalist. His doctorate is in the field of the modern Turkish political system (Panteion University, 2011). His latest book “The Ailing Turkish Democracy” was published by the Cambridge Scholars Publication in 2020. Dr. Stelgias was a correspondent of the newspaper "Kathimerini (Cyprus edition)" for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community from 2009 to 2021. Currently, Dr. Stelgias works at the Cyprus News Agency. Dr. Stelgias publishes in Turkish news articles and analyses on Cyprus and Greece.